17.2084, Qs: Onset [r] Deletion in English

Tue Jul 18 14:29:33 UTC 2006

LINGUIST List: Vol-17-2084. Tue Jul 18 2006. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 17.2084, Qs: Onset [r] Deletion in English

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Date: 14-Jul-2006
From: Nancy Hall < nhall at essex.ac.uk >
Subject: Onset [r] Deletion in English 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 10:27:30
From: Nancy Hall < nhall at essex.ac.uk >
Subject: Onset [r] Deletion in English 

Some English words are occasionally pronounced with deletion of an onset
[r]. Examples include the following (thanks to Maria Gouskova and Linda
Hall for pointing some of these out):

February -> Febuary (this is pretty much standard)
veterinarian -> vetinarian
Tristram Shandy -> Tristam Shandy
respiratory -> respitory
spectrogram -> spectogram
secretary -> secetary 
extraordinary -> extodinary (Fiona Apple sings this in
''Extraordinary Machine'')

[A blogging Apple fan comments on this last one, ``For some reason I really
like her pronunciation of Extraordinary. It becomes ''extordinary'' because
no one on the planet can sing Extraordinary, it's a terrible word.''

Although this deletion seems to be sporadic, the examples above
share certain traits, suggesting there is a phonological basis for the
deletion. For example, each word contains more than one onset [r], and the
[r] that deletes is in a complex onset in a non-initial syllable. Usually
it's unstressed, and usually it precedes the other [r]. 

I would be grateful to anyone who can point out 1) any published or
unpublished work on onset [r] deletion; 2) any other examples of onset [r]
deletion that you may have noticed (whether or not they are similar to the
examples above). I will post a summary if there is sufficient interest.

--Nancy Hall 

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

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